Ah, a depressing story – how nice.
This came to me the other day when I was listening to some really sad music (of course), and it wouldn't leave me until I wrote it down. As a result, this one-shot was born.
Imaginary friends are real. Or, at least, we're real for a time. See, the thing about us is that we can only stay for as long as a child really needs us. In other words, the lonelier the kid, the longer we stay. But, as they grow up and make friends, we start to fade.
It really sucks.
Another thing that sucks?
We only get to do it once.
There's no "second time around" with being an imaginary friend. Once we've done it, once we fade, that's it.
Nothing's worse than realizing you're not needed anymore.
The truth of that statement didn't hit me until I faded.
When I appeared in a blue bedroom decorated with planets hanging from the ceiling and images of astronauts, I wasn't happy. After all, I only had one shot at being a kid's friend, and I wanted to enjoy it. I didn't want hang around some lonely nerd who would need me until he or she was crazy old.
I flipped my blonde hair over my shoulder, and grimaced slightly at the sight of a wooden desk buried under a pile of papers: maps of the stars, the periodic table, hand-drawn blueprints to huge machines, notebooks etched in a child's scrawl, and so on.
The sniffling coming from the closed closet door was what distracted me from further investigation of the kid's room. Cracking open the door, I was met with the sight of an eight-year-old boy huddled in the corner, tears trickling down his face.
He didn't seem to notice me, and I knelt down next to him. "Hi."
His head snapped up so fast I was surprised it didn't fall off. "Who are you?" he snapped, blue eyes wide and guarded.
Leaning back until I sat across from him just outside the closet door, I introduced myself. "I'm Kennedy: your imaginary friend."
He rubbed at his nose with the back of his hand, snuffling slightly. "Imaginary friends don't exist," he said flatly, "Science proves that."
"Ah," I shook my finger at him, clucking my tongue disapprovingly. "But that's not true at all. We're very real, scientists just don't want you to believe it. Ironic, considering those who excel at science at a young age are often the ones we appear to."
I had his attention by this point.
His eyes were alight with the curiosity only a child could have – the kind of curiosity that is never satisfied – and I found myself grinning widely at the little boy with the blue eyes and brown hair.
"What do you mean?" he demanded, "How did you get here? Am I the only one that can see you? How long are you staying? Can I show you my rocket ship collection? Does my dad know you're here?" His questions were presented in rapid-fire, and I laughed lightly.
"Imaginary friends only pop up when you need us, I got here through the window, yes, not sure, absolutely, and no. Does that answer everything?"
He nodded, though his eyes were narrowed pensively as he absorbed the things I said.
"Great," I said, pulling myself off the cream-colored carpet, "Can we move away from the closet now? If you want, you can show me your rocket ship collection right now."
He stood with a smile, taking my hand and pulling me to a glass case that showcased his dreams and hopes for the future.
He was telling me about his favorite rocket when he paused, eyebrows furrowed as he came upon a sudden thought. "My name's Blake, by the way."
"It's nice to meet you, Blake," I said, giving his hand a shake in some semblance of professionalism. He responded with enthusiasm, and it was when he was telling me a joke about protons that I knew he would do great things someday.
After that, I never thought of him as a nerd, or a burden. If anything, I enjoyed my time with him too much.
"Kennedy!" I opened my eyes, looking around blearily for the owner of the voice. I had dozed off by Blake's locker while he was in class, but it would seem class was over, and Blake had (as usual) raced out to see me.
Nine-years-old, and he still needed me. The poor kid had yet to make any true friends. Sure, there was that boy his dad had tried to get him to play with, but they'd clashed. Blake wanted to show the other kid his star diagrams, and all the other kid had wanted to do was wrestle.
It hadn't worked out.
But ever since I had come along, Blake didn't seem to want any other friends. Perhaps this should have worried me, but I'd been around the kid a year, and I enjoyed his company just as much as he seemed to enjoy mine.
"Sup, Kiddo?" I greeted him, standing up and ruffling his hair.
He scowled slightly at his mussed hair before his grin reappeared with full-force, and he said happily, "I got a one-hundred on Mrs. Lewis' test!"
I chuckled at this, pulling him towards the exit before the swarm of other children took over the halls: I didn't like being walked through. "Of course you did," I said as he opened the doors and bounded down the school's front steps. "I never doubted you for a second."
"You think Daddy will be proud of me?" He asked me, shifting from foot to foot as he waited for his father to come get him.
"He'd be crazy not to be." I told him, finality in my voice. I didn't care much for Blake's dad, Rupert. The man meant well, sure, but his little boy was more important than his work, and Rupert didn't seem to realize that. Whenever he interacted with Blake, Rupert was always distracted, whether it be by his phone, his company, or merely his thoughts.
It was at that moment that Blake's dad swung around the corner in his CEO worthy car, picking up his son (and me, but the dude had no idea) and listening half-heartedly as Blake told him about his test score.
When the man only responded with a sigh and a quick, "That's nice, son," I glared at him for the rest of the ride home, occasionally sending the back of his head a silly face. Rupert couldn't see me, but Blake could, and the smile I got out of the little boy was totally worth it.
I didn't like Marissa, Blake's babysitter, much either. Perhaps I was biased, considering I knew the kid better than anyone else, but even if I wasn't his imaginary friend I'd like to think that I would have realized pretty quickly that Marissa was no good.
At the age of fifteen, she was more obsessed with her face and phone than anything else. Much like Rupert, she had only listened to Blake with half an ear, nodding occasionally while he told her about the different planets and how the seasons worked.
One night, after Marissa made sure Blake was in bed (by poking her head in with a quick, "Night"), he turned to where I sat in a chair by the window, illuminated in moonlight, and asked, "How come no one else listens to me like you do?"
This question broke my heart.
What was I supposed to say?
Because they don't care about you like I do.
Because they don't understand.
Because they're all so, so selfish.
There was no way to tell these things to a nine-year-old boy without tearing part of my own soul out in the process, so I stood up and went to where Blake was bundled in his favorite "quilt of the universe" (as I called it, due to the images of planets and stars on it), rubbing his hair affectionately as I said, "I'm not sure, Kiddo. But don't worry: you have me, and I'll always listen."
I smiled, hoping I looked happier than I felt.
I don't think I did.
Blake's town was pretty small, compared to other cities. And – for whatever reason – there seemed to be no other children around who clicked with him. He was eleven, and I knew he'd be extremely lonely and depressed if not for me (I wasn't even being egotistical; it was basically fact at that point).
That went both ways, however. I'd be pretty lonely without him too.
"No," Blake told me, a pout on his face, "Kennedy, you're looking at it wrong."
I smirked, tearing my eyes from the gorgeous night sky to look at the little boy splayed out on the grass next to me. "What makes you say that?"
"Because," he was practically whining at this point, "That's Orion's Belt, not the Little Dipper!"
"Are you sure?" I squinted at the dozens of twinkling stars that lit up the sky, "Because it looks an awful lot like a soup pot."
At this, Blake released a groan of "Kennedyyyyy!" and I burst into laughter.
It was nice, not being alone.
Blake was twelve when his dad said they needed to move. Apparently Rupert was expanding his business, and he decided that the best place to do that would be in a giant city. While this was probably true, it tore Blake apart. He may not have had any friends, but he liked where they lived (he told me this many times), and was extremely nervous about the move.
"I don't want to leave." He told me the night before they (we?) were scheduled to leave.
I placed my chin in my hand, smiling gently. "Don't you worry, Kiddo. It won't be so bad. You still have me, right?"
He nodded furiously at this, as if the mere thought of not having me terrified him to the very core.
I wasn't sure if that was true, but when we sat in the backseat of his dad's car watching a movie as we drove to their (our?) new life, I knew one thing for sure.
The thought of not having him terrified me.
At thirteen, Blake – still friendless because he refused to let people get close for some reason – came home one day from school with a flushed face and wide eyes.
"Whoa, there," I said when he practically sprinted into his room, looking up at him curiously from my place on his bed where I had been snoozing. "What happened to you, Kid?"
He scratched at the back of his neck awkwardly, refusing to make eye contact with me as he mumbled something under his breath.
"What was that? I don't speak mumble."
He cleared his throat, blue eyes finally meeting mine. "Uh, I, uh, made a friend today."
I snapped up so fast he'd probably thought I'd been electrocuted. "You did what? Blake, that's fantastic! What's his name? Or wait, did you meet a girl?" I waggled my eyebrows playfully, and I got the answer from his blush. "You did!" I cried, refusing to acknowledge the sinking feeling in my stomach. "What's her name?"
"Gianna," he said, a soft smile on his face. "She was really nice, like you, and she looks kind of like you, too."
My smile was soft, "That's wonderful. Hopefully I'll get to meet her soon."
Not because I faded, no, but because Gianna turned out to be not-so-nice (she just wanted to get good grades and hoped Blake would let her have his notes), and Blake was back to pushing people away.
Everyone, that is, except for me.
"Wakey-wakey, Blakey!" I yelled, throwing a pillow at the fourteen-year-old who had tried to get swallowed by his bed (it was the only way to explain the fact that he wasn't visible because he was so wrapped up in his blankets).
"Kennedy!" he cried, his voice cracking (ah, puberty), face popping out of his cocoon just enough so he could glare at me. "I'm trying to sleep!"
"And I'm trying to wake you up. Shall we compromise? How about this: you wake up now, and then you can sleep later, say . . . ten o'clock-ish tonight?" My laughter was drowned out by the pillow that hit me in the face, and it was my turn to glare at Blake when he had the nerve to chuckle.
He pulled the covers back over his head, and I released a long sigh. "No; don't fall back asleep! Up you go, Blake. Your dad's at work, and I want pancakes."
"Make them yourself," was the response I received.
"But yours taste better!" I insisted, with no results. An idea hit me, and I sauntered out of the room with a wicked smile, saying over my shoulder, "Alright! But it'll be a shame when your dad comes home to find that the kitchen burned down." There was a cry of protest, some shuffling, and then Blake practically threw himself out of his room, marching down the stairs with a scowl that I knew was fake.
"Fine," he said, "But I'm not adding chocolate chips just for you."
"But, Blakeeee," I called, trailing after him with a pout, "You know I love chocolate chips!"
When I waltzed into the kitchen, I saw he had already pulled them out of the pantry, and I grinned.
"I knew you'd see it my way," I informed him casually, seating myself at the counter so I could watch him cook. It was one of his many insane talents/hobbies, and if I was the only one who got to reap the benefits, so what?
Even if no one else saw him for how wonderful he was, at least he had me.
And I had him.
"George is really nice," Blake told me one day after he had gotten home from school. "He likes the stars too, but he's more interested in programming. I think it's pretty cool. He's funny too, and I know you like people who can take a joke."
I nodded at him, glad to know he had someone to hang out with at school (I would do it, but no one else can see me, and they would find it weird if they saw Blake talking to nothing). "You know what that means?" I asked, a teasing smile on my face, "Maybe he can program some humor into you."
Blake scowled at me with mock-anger, chucking a twig at my face. I dodged it, laughing when Blake sighed dejectedly.
We were outside in the backyard, looking up at the stars (Blake's favorite pastime), and I had told him he'd seemed happier when he came home from school. He'd confessed that the boy he'd been paired with for a science project had befriended him, and I had given him a high-five. At fifteen, it was about time he started making friends.
I was happy for him.
Really. I was.
Or, at least, I tried to convince myself that I was.
It was hard to do, though.
Especially since it explained why my skin had started to look translucent.
I faded a little bit more each day after that.
One night, George invited Blake to go to the movies with some of his friends, and Blake had hastily agreed. He hadn't gotten home till much later, and when he did he confessed to me that it was the most fun he'd had in a long time.
It shouldn't have hurt as much as it did.
I should've been thrilled he was finally growing up and making friends.
But weeks later, I'd barely seen Blake because he was always out with his friends, and it hurt. He came home one night with a bright smile on his face, and I tried to smile too. "Did you have fun?" I asked with false cheeriness, wondering if Blake saw how transparent I'd become.
He nodded enthusiastically. "So much fun! We went bowling: I won. Tomorrow, we're going to go to the park because Rebecca wants to teach us some sort of game," he rolled his eyes fondly, "It'll be fun."
I felt bile rise in my throat. "Yes," I croaked, "Lots of fun."
He fell back into his bed with a grin, before becoming serious and looking at me steadily. "Kennedy?"
"Thank you." There was sincerity in his voice, and that should have made me feel good.
It should have.
But it didn't.
And the next morning, when he woke up with a smile and walked straight through me, I knew it was over.
He was sixteen, after all, and who needs an imaginary friend when they have real ones?
I had faded.
When we fade, we don't exactly die. We're still there, but now we're the ones who are alone.
And oh, how it hurts.
I kept up with Blake still, even though it pained me when he would look right through me. Sometimes, when people mentioned "Kennedy" (often talking about the former president), Blake would get a faraway look in his eyes, as if there was a memory that he couldn't quite place.
Something that felt real, but only made sense if it had been a dream.
Blake got married when he was twenty-seven to Rebecca, the girl he'd met through George. He became a scientist (of course), and accomplished so many things it would take too long to list them all.
He made me so proud.
And yes, it hurt that I couldn't hug him.
It hurt that I couldn't tell him how proud I was of him.
It hurt that I couldn't say, "Good job, Kiddo."
But when he and Rebecca had a baby girl and named her Meredith Kennedy Jamestone, I knew I hadn't been completely forgotten.
And when Blake told his little girl the story about a lonely boy and his imaginary friend, it didn't hurt quite as much as it had before.
So yes, being an imaginary friend sucks, but – in the end – it's all worth it.
Wow. That was sad. An interesting idea, though, isn't it? I would really hate being an imaginary friend – nothing's worse than being forgotten.
But enough of the sadness.
I hope you enjoyed!
Till next time,